Some Swiss Farmers Eat Domestic Cats. Discuss

Philosophically speaking a lot of people find eating cats and dogs acceptable. I can really understand their argument. Although for me it is a horrible habit, a totally unacceptable activity. Perhaps my response is too emotional and illogical. If I was a vegetarian I could complain about people eating cat and dog meat. But if I eat chicken and sausages I am open to criticism for being hypocritical for complaining about people eating cat and dog meat. I accept that.

Beautiful Switzerland

Beautiful Switzerland. Photo by Fr Antunes.

Why is Switzerland out of step with Europe? Or is it?

The Swiss seem to be a little out of step with the rest of Europe in their relationship with animals. Not only do some farmers routinely eat cat and dog meat, there still seems to be a dog and cat fur trade in Switzerland. I was under the impression it had been banned under some sort of European Union (EU) agreement. Switzerland does have a close relationship with the EU in the form of various treaties even though they are not in the EU. Both eating cats and dogs and trading in their fur is the sort of thing we see happening in Asia, particularly China and Vietnam but not in Europe. I believe that both are banned in the EU.

I think I have to stress that this is not a widespread practice in Switzerland, as I understand it. Importantly, the cat and dog meat is not sold as a commercial product. The dog or cat is killed by the farmer who then eats the meat. It is a private affair. That is what we are told.

It is quite legal to do that in Switzerland provided the animal is killed humanely. Killing an animal in a cruel way would be a crime. That raises the first issue; do these farmers kill their dogs and cats humanely? Some might not. If they are in remote places and it is done privately who is going to know? How can the laws on animal cruelty be enforced when there are no witnesses to the crime and no bodies, as they are eaten?

It is the philosophical side of the process that is the most interesting, other than finding an answer to the question “Why are the Swiss involved with this sort of thing?” Switzerland is one of the world’s most successful countries. Very refined etc. But is eating cat and dog meat an unrefined or uncivilized activity? I expect PoC’s reporter in Switzerland, Marc, to find some answers.

Eating cats and dogs: no difference to pigs etc.

The argument that it is alright to eat cats and dogs is based on the fact that we eat rabbits, cows and pigs. Sometimes these animals are pets too. What is the difference? How can animal rights people and cat lovers complain bitterly about eating cat meat? It is very difficult to deliver a counter argument to that particular justification for the acceptability of eating cats and dogs.

And, yet, for most people, it still feels very wrong to eat cat and dog meat despite the logical reasoning behind justifying it.

Type of Person

I would argue that there are three types of people in this context:

  1. People who believe that animals are no different to vegetables in respect of food for human consumption…”There is no difference between a carrot, cow or dog. If it moves, eat it!”
  2. People who eat cat and dog meat while aware of the general view that it is unacceptable. They rationalise it as stated above: no different to eating a pig for example.
  3. People who find the consumption of cat and dog meat an immoral and cruel activity. This is probably an emotional response.

 Why does it feel wrong to most people to eat cats and dogs?

You have to tap into the deepest part of your brain to find an answer. I believe the answer is as stated by Charlotte from Carolina, USA. She is smart. She refers to dogs but the same argument obviously applies to cats. She commented on the newspaper article.

I’ll tell you the difference, it’s quite simple. Dogs are BRED to be man’s best friend. They trust us, love us unconditionally, help fight our wars, lead the blind, sniff out drugs at airports, comfort trauma victims, sleep in our beds, are literally innately designed in their DNA to Trust People. To kill them for food is the ultimate betrayal. Seriously? Who really believes that dogs are “no different than other animals?”

The point she makes so strongly is that dogs and cats are meant to be our companions. All of them. Sometimes, rarely, cows and pigs are pets. But dogs and cats are companion animals. It is as simple as that. There are unwritten rules governing the relationship and the rules categorically do not include killing and eating your companion animal as that activity is in direct opposition to the whole purpose of the relationship: mutual friendship and support. It is a betrayal of our relationship with a cat or dog to kill him and eat him.

Yes, it is an emotional response but emotions are very important to us. They are integral to our lives. They give us feelings and feelings guide us on all manner of aspects of living.

Stray and feral cats and dogs

Feral cats and dogs weaken the companion animal argument outlined above. The presence of millions of feral cats and dogs dilutes their value and importance in the eyes of many people.

Eating a Carnivore

There is one last issue that I find interesting. When a person eats a cat they eat a carnivore; one of the greatest predator carnivores on the planet. When we eat a cow we eat a herbivore. Is the difference significant? In the wild, lions kill cheetahs, sometimes, or hyenas. That is an example of a carnivore killing a carnivore but the lion does not eat the cheetah or the hyena. The lion is removing competition. The lion eats herbivores. Is there something unnatural and inherently unhealthy in humans eating a carnivore? I have no thoughts on that at this time.

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Some Swiss Farmers Eat Domestic Cats. Discuss — 19 Comments

  1. I saw somewhere the other day about cats and dogs being eaten in Switzerland but couldn’t believe it of such a humane country. I suppose farmers look upon all animals as commodities, not pets, but surely they have working dogs? How can it be alright to eat say a greyhound but not a collie?
    I can see where Charlotte is coming from but not only dogs are bred to be ‘man’s best friend’ and useful as companions and many other things,as yiou say Michael cats too and what about horses, how many uses have they, yet some people eat them. What a fuss there is at present in the UK because Tescos have sold burgers with horse meat in, instead of beef (cow meat) in, I say what difference, whatever is in is bits of large dead animal.
    I knew a woman who came back from holiday in Peru (I think it was) showing us photos of herself laughing and eating barbequed guinea pig!Childrens sweet little pets here BUT also used in laboratories by scientists!
    It’s all a mix up, how can some animals be protected yet some lawfully abused. ALL humans are protected by rights, not just some, so why not animals too?
    To veggies eating ANY animal, bird, or fish flesh is a sickening thought and I wish I’d gone veggie long before I did because I felt a dreadful hypocrite saying I loved animals yet eating them. Now it would be like eating a person’s flesh as it’s just the same, it’s a living being’s dead body. Walking past a butcher’s shop or stall now is a nightmare, the smell of rotting dead flesh is so strong. But we all have to come to evolving in our own good time, many people think eating animals is acceptable no matter how the animal suffered in life and dying. Some think it’s sad that animals suffer but to them hey that’s life, human gratification comes first. Some like me feel bad about eating flesh but carry on doing it by the habit of a lifetime thinking it would be too big a life change. It IS a big change but for myself it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

    • I was vegetarian for 6 years. I am going to go back. I went back to meat because I was dangerously underweight. Now I dont have that problem anymore so I may return to not eating meat. I always ate fish though. I loved to fish with a harpoon in Corsica as a child so it’s somehow part of my nature to hunt fish in the summer months. I do care about them. If a person puts a live fish in a bucket I shout at them. I have even thrown peoples fish back in the sea for them doing that. I hate people who catch tiny fish and throw them back. They dont eat them. They do it for fun, purely.

      • Marc how could you go back to eating meat I wonder, it interests me that some veggies do, I’m not criticising at all, far be it from me when I feel guilty about eating dairy products which come from animals suffering yet I haven’t gone vegan. But I just wonder how you can stand the taste of flesh once you’ve stopped eating it?
        I know I’d be sick if I put even a mouthful in.
        Unfortunately one of our brothers fishes, catches big fish and throws them back saying it doesn’t hurt them. I don’t see how a hook in a delicate mouth can’t possibly not be painful.
        But only Babz and I in our family are veggie and never use anything tested on animals, nor wear any animal parts and we both fight for animal welfare and have all our adult lives.
        Somehow we gradually broke free of our family tradition although our late mam was a very compassionate woman who rarely ate meat.
        I should think if a child was brought up in a veggie family they would never miss meat.

        • I actually only eat ‘organic’ meat if that makes a small difference. I buy my eggs from a farm up the road from chickens who run around on grass and not just mud like most free range chickens. This doesn’t change the underlying fact that I eat meat. I am blood group A and was always extremely thin – so I went back to meat for health reasons. But like Michael, I only eat meat very occasionally. A couple times a month or so and only as I said, meat from animals that were not injected with chemicals and so on – organic meat. This is not a justification but a small difference. However I am not super thin anymore so I feel the time might have come to go back. Its true at first I found it quite hard and disgusting. Whenever I smell meat being cooked or even if it is in a broth or a small part of food I notice it immediately and its not nice. I think time is coming to go back off it. But I will continue with fish and eggs and dairy products for health reasons really. Eggs and milk I will continue to get from the farm up the road. I am lucky for this farm. It makes everything much different to supermarket products.

      • I worry about fish 😉 We are destroying populations. I read in the Times that the total number of adult cod in the North Sea is about 250! Something crazy like that. There are too many people, and too many people who don’t think or have to survive anyway they can and in doing so destroy natural resource.

        • Fish have been decimated and re decimated 10 times over. It is appalling. We were out at sea in the Med once and went past a fishing boat about a mile away from us and we ran straight over its longer than one mile long illegal net. Luckily it was an old english lifeboat with proppellors in tunnels so we did not get caught. They were breaking the law right in front of us. Trawling is not selective – and even if it was we still take way too much. Its terrible and should be illegal and enforced. Farming fish is a start. But in the Fjord of Norway, not in tiny containers under the surface. Thats cruel. I hate seeing fish in small spaces – it makes me terribly sad and I think they suffer miserably.

    • I think you are so right about being vegetarian. If you are vegetarian your actions are in sync with what you say. In respect of meat I struggle to stop eating it completely because of my deeply ingrained habits acquired as a child in England in the 50s and 60s. I limit meat to chicken and the occasional sausage, that sort of thing. Quite limited but not vegetarian. I think we do have quite a mixed up relationship with animals. Half the world loves them and half wants to eat them or kill them for fur etc.

      When I see “meat” in a butchers I see the flesh of a cut up dead animal and it is unpleasant to me.

      • Sausages have nasty unhealthy bits in them Michael. Try Chef’s Special Quorn sausages, we first had them having a pre Christmas treat of a meal out in a Wetherspoon’s pub and they look and taste exactly like pork sausages! So much so we checked they hadn’t got our order wrong.
        The snag with veggie food is the expense of the ready meals which are sometimes necessary when there’s no time to cook from scratch, it doesn’t encourage busy people to go veggie.
        You are doing OK I’d say as every little helps so eating chicken isn’t that bad when you cancel it out with all the good you do for cats and charities.
        I do miss fish and chips and there’s no nice fish substitute yet (in fact it’s disgustingly inedible lol) but one day there may be I hope.

          • They are probably good. Many of those things are good as long as you look at them as something new and interesting and not something thats meant to be meat or replace it.

            • Good on you Michael, lol yes you are a poet but didn’t knowet lol
              Marc, we’ve had guests for meals and haven’t told them until afterwards when they’ve cleaned their plates and complimented us, that it was actually made with Quorn.
              The mince, steak strips and chicken pieces are very good bases for lasagnes, shepherds pie, bolognese, etc.
              One quite fussy gym mad lady who said she didn’t eat much ate a huge yorkshire pudding once, filled with Quorn mince and onion and gravy, she couldn’t believe it wasn’t real mince and as it’s fat free that suited her fine. The Quorn bacon isn’t really like bacon (which I admit I did miss at first) but it’s very tasty and fills the kitchen with the most wonderful aroma. I think the attraction of meat is that it’s something substantial to chew on, we substitute a large roast mushroom sometimes which fits that need!

  2. High up in the mountains, in any part of the world, people are all pretty similar in my experience. I have never actually been to that kind of rural high mountain Switzerland, but judging by some of the pictures I have seen of the houses, I think things remain fairly primitive up there in many ways. Mountain people are all meat eaters, even in India which is a vegetarian country for the most part. Clearly there are still people up there doing it because their parents and grandparents familly before always did it. Mountains are isolated so this is very possible. What bothers me is that they must be eating work animals, not pets. So I guess the dogs and cats might be kept with less warmth and comfort.

    Switzerland is mostly mountains. So many parts of it have not chainged and will not ever change in the future by virtue of geography. Remoteness is a kind of place that ancient customs and habits are able to remain intact. I wonder if some of the people far up the mountains have ever seen the city in their lifetimes. Switzerland is a funny place because of it’s mountains. That saved them being part of the war for a start. It’s in the middle of europe and its the oldest country with the oldest government. Over 700 years old now. It also has a crazy amount of tradition and old ways that keep up with the present even in the cities. It’s common to see 400 year old houses. The office I work in 450 years old. Nothing special here. There are hundreds of such houses just in this area.

    This is the only explanation I have for this article. Furthermore I would suggest it probably happened all over europe but no longer does – except in deepest darkest Switzerland. Thats Switzerland. Modern and old.
    Personally I think it’s horrible to eat dogs and cats. I would understand in medieval ages when there wasn’t much to eat but now? It can only continue in places so remote they haven’t much changed since those ages. Or it is continued as tradition on purpose. But where do you draw the line between doing what your parents did and doing it to uphold a tradition that your parents upheld. Its confusing and not clearly defined. And it’s certainly not ok to bring up children eating cats and dogs, in this day and age. But if they never saw the world any other way, up there on the mountain passes or wherever they live, then it’s just a difficult subject really. Those same people probably have carbon footprints that are so so tiny it makes us look like big fat city folk losers who could learn a lesson or two from them.

    Thats my take on it all. Yuk though, really, I doubt they are killed the Chinese way though. I don’t believe that’s possible of the Swiss.

    • Good point as usual. Perhaps eating cat and dog is done by people who are living in times gone past when cats and dogs were working animals and one use was as a provider of meat for consumption. Mountain people could be living 100 years behind city people. And in parts of Asia there are, what I would call, old fashioned, unenlightened ideas about eating food that cures illness, which is why they eat tiger parts and rhino horn to improve their sex lives (mad). Perhaps eating cat and dog is a 100 year old out of date habit that will fade away in 100 years.

  3. It’s strange how people in different parts of the world see animals differently,yet we humans are all born the same,how can some of us treat animals kindly and some of us abuse them?Some have them as pets but some eat them?
    I went veggie long ago,I always remember the rule,eat nothing that had a face.A face with eyes,nose and mouth just like ours,but theirs looking out on a world where they are powerless against whatever people want to do to them.
    My kids are happy healthy veggies but of course my pets eat meat,it’s different for them that they need it,when they lived wild they caught it fairly,it’s not their fault they are domesticated and can’t hunt for what they need now.
    I can understand the animal food chain but not the human when we don’t need meat,fowl or fish to survive.

  4. Pingback: Swiss Fur Trade Banned Jan 1st 2012 | Pictures of Cats

  5. I just read on Facebook that there’s a petition to ban the eating of cats, dogs, and horses on Maui. I was surprised to learn of this. I wonder if some tourists are eating it, and not knowing?

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